Shopping for Eid, or Hari Raya as it is known in Malay, is in full swing in Geylang Serai, the Malay district in Singapore. In the last few days of Ramadan, the stores and bazaar offer almost everything in preparation for the celebrations.
As I wander around, I take in the colors. I see things new and things traditional. Festive food sold includes ketupat, rice dumplings eaten with meat dishes and a variety of sauces.
It takes a lot of work to prepare the ketupat from scratch – the way my grandmother and grandaunt did. We all helped, too, with the various tasks.
It starts with buying stalks of young coconut leaves. The leaves are woven into pouches using age-old techniques. The pouches are then partly filled with rice, and sealed. The final stage, the cooking, requires boiling the ketupat for at least four hours till the rice expands to a nicely firm texture.
It’s good that some people are selling the ketupat in various stages of preparation, providing that convenience for many households.
I come across Encik (Mr in Malay) Aziz selling fully prepared ketupat. Stop by for a little chat, and convey my respect for folks like him who keep our traditional foods and arts alive in the face of changing times.
I smile at the way he stores the ketupat – hanging on a pole. My grandmother used to do that in our kampung or childhood home. I really don’t know why, but as a kid, I loved the sight of the wooden pole laden with ketupat hanging in our kitchen.
Memories come rushing back: the ketupat and food prepared by my grandmother’s loving, meticulous hands, enjoyed by our extended family every festive season.
Selamat Hari Raya. Happy Eid.